|Statement from the National Institutes of Health
on World AIDS Day
NIH Announces First World AIDS Day Awards
December 1 marks World AIDS Day, a time to reflect on how HIV/AIDS
has changed our world and an opportunity to recommit our efforts
to making a difference. “The Promise of Partnerships,” the theme
adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services, reminds
us how each of us must play a critical role in the fight against
HIV/AIDS, whether as a policymaker, scientist, clinician, volunteer,
community advocate, student, teacher, caregiver, person living
with HIV infection, family member or friend.
The AIDS pandemic has no boundaries, affecting nearly every country
around the globe. Worldwide, an estimated 39.5 million people are
living with HIV, including 2.3 million children. In 2006 alone,
a staggering 4.3 million people were newly infected. According
to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, 95 percent of
infected people reside in developing countries.
“HIV/AIDS continues to ravage American communities and societies
around the world. NIH has made the largest public investment in
AIDS research in the world, and we are committed to leading the
biomedical research effort to fight this modern-day plague,” says
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Elias Zerhouni, M.D.
The NIH investment in this area of research began 25 years ago,
when the first cases of what is now known as AIDS were reported
in the United States. NIH supports a comprehensive program of basic,
clinical and behavioral research on HIV infection, HIV-associated
opportunistic infections, common coinfections, malignancies and
other complications. This represents a unique and complex trans-NIH,
multidisciplinary global research effort with the ultimate goals
of better understanding the basic biology of HIV, developing effective
therapies to treat and control HIV disease, and designing interventions
to prevent new infections. Coordinated by the NIH Office of AIDS
Research (OAR), the NIH AIDS research program encompasses nearly
all of the NIH Institutes and Centers.
An important focus of NIH AIDS research is HIV vaccine development,
for which NIH funding more than doubled from $232 million in FY
2000 to $602 million in 2006.
“An HIV vaccine is our best hope for slowing and ultimately ending
the HIV/AIDS pandemic,” says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of
the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). “With
our many partners and collaborators, we are designing and testing
numerous novel vaccine approaches that are beginning to show promise.”
This year, NIH launched a new campaign called “Be The Generation,” challenging
young Americans to become informed about HIV vaccine research and
to support those that volunteer for AIDS vaccine clinical trials.
By doing so they can be the generation that ends AIDS through the
discovery of a safe and effective preventive HIV vaccine (see www.bethegeneration.org).
While researchers search for a vaccine, scientists also continue
to identify new and better drugs that have fewer complications.
They are studying how best to use those drugs and finding ways
to make taking them more convenient. Drug development remains an
important area of research because drug resistance can potentially
limit treatment options for people infected with HIV, and long-term
antiretroviral treatment can lead to a number of serious clinical
Scientists are also focusing their efforts on developing innovative
prevention strategies such as topical microbicides to help reduce
the number of new infections. Topical microbicides — creams,
gels or other substances designed to allow women to protect themselves
against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections — hold
great promise as a strategy for preventing future HIV infections
and AIDS-related complications.
On World AIDS Day, HHS is launching www.AIDS.gov,
the new Internet gateway to federal HIV/AIDS information. It will
guide users to information on prevention, testing, treatment and
research programs, and to federal HIV/AIDS policies and resources.
NIH World AIDS Day Awards
This year, the OAR and NIAID sponsored a novel employee recognition
award, the NIH World AIDS Day Awards. The awards will be given
each year to NIH scientists and managers who have made exceptional
contributions to the AIDS research efforts at NIH — either
for original scientific research or for programmatic support for
research. After a highly competitive process, the following individuals
received this prestigious new NIH award:
- Edward Berger, Ph.D., of NIAID — for his outstanding
achievements, groundbreaking discoveries and innovative and original
scientific contributions that have advanced AIDS research. Dr.
Berger published a landmark paper using a novel method to discover
the first HIV coreceptor [cell surface protein HIV needs, in
addition to its primary receptor, to connect to and infect immune
cells] (fusin, renamed CXCR4), which directly led his and other
groups to identify CCR5 as the other major coreceptor. These
studies provided entirely new perspectives for understanding
how HIV evolves within the body during initial virus transmission,
asymptomatic infection and disease progression. The findings
continue to be translated into the development of new antiretroviral
drugs to treat HIV-infected people, as well as new strategies
for designing vaccines and microbicides to prevent infection.
- A joint award to Robert Yarchoan, M.D. and Hiroaki Mitsuya,
M.D., Ph.D. of the National Cancer Institute — for their
individual and combined achievements, groundbreaking discoveries
and innovative and original scientific contributions that have
significantly advanced HIV treatment research. Their landmark
clinical studies, demonstrating that AZT could result in partial
restoration of the immune response and temporary clinical benefit,
established the first treatment for HIV infection and launched
the era of effective therapy for HIV/AIDS. Their work significantly
advanced this field, directly impacting on the development of
new and better strategies to prevent and treat HIV disease in
this country and around the world.
- Lynne Mofenson, M.D., of the National Institute of Child Health
and Human Development — in recognition of her outstanding
contributions supporting HIV/AIDS research and programs. Dr.
Mofenson’s dedication and unprecedented efforts significantly
contributed to the development of safe and effective treatments
for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and
the treatment of maternal and pediatric AIDS in this country
and around the world.
“These awards demonstrate the NIH commitment to supporting a multifaceted
research effort in HIV/AIDS, with the goal of fostering the best
minds to work together to develop new medical tools to stop the
devastating effects of the disease around the world,” says Jack
Whitescarver, Ph.D., NIH Associate Director for AIDS Research and
Director of the OAR.
The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is
responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 Institutes
and Centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating
the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office
of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible
for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH. Additional
information is available at http://www.nih.gov/icd/od/.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and
Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting
and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research,
and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both
common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and
its programs, visit www.nih.gov.